If I was writing this essay six weeks ago, it would have had a much different tone. Coming out of election day in early November, it was reasonably clear that President Trump had narrowly lost re-election but in the process had enough coattails to avoid a mandate by Joe Biden and any kind of “blue wave”, while improving Republican strength in the House, probably avoiding loss of the Senate majority, and adding measurably to Republican strength in state legislatures. He was also contemplating a legacy in which he would be remembered much more significantly for leadership on many policy choices that will make a positive difference for Americans than for the personality characteristics and governance style that ultimately led to his defeat. Unfortunately, over the next two months, this outcome was crushed in a wave of his disastrous narcissistic decisions in pursuit of massive election fraud devoid of any compelling evidence topped by the avoidable loss of the two Georgia Senate seats and the disgraceful and criminal storming of the nation’s Capitol by thuggish elements among his supporters in an attempt to force the overturn of the Electoral College vote.
This was all about him and his egomaniacal instincts and it could have been avoided if, on December 14, the day of both the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear his appeal of the Pennsylvania election result and the certification of the Electoral College vote by the 50 states, he had called a press conference to concede defeat, congratulate Joe Biden, and commit to an orderly transition, while keeping his attorneys active in pursuing credible election fraud evidence, and then concentrating his attention on the Georgia Senate runoff elections to salvage control of the Senate. Alas, at long last, this was too much to ask of such a narcissist.
So now, after being impeached for the second time, we are left to consider what remains of Trump’s legacy. First, as I write, it is pretty clear that he will not be convicted by the Senate, for even though the charges brought are probably impeachable for a sitting President, they are probably not so as applied to a former President being tried as a private citizen. That remains to be seen.
As for his legacy, beyond and despite his disgraceful exit and the disruptive personality traits that have been central to his rule, I believe that there are several items that will stand up to the test of time as consequential for his presidency, as follows:
- At the top of this list must be his judicial appointments–over 230 federal judges, 55 appellate court justices, and three Supreme Court Justices–which will assure that Constitutional originalism will be a compelling theme in the American judicial system for several decades and provide a bulwark against a lot of goofy stuff coming from the progressive left, barring a catastrophic “packing” of the Supreme Court.
- For all the wailing about the abuses of China sheltered by its membership in the World Trade Organization by the three preceding administrations, Trump was the only one to really do anything about it. Not enough and too much weighted toward tariffs as a response, but he successfully called them out for a range of trade sanctions, outright theft, violation of the Hong Kong treaty, and human rights abuses, not to mention their primary responsibility for the Covid pandemic.
- He launched Operation Warp Speed for the development of Covid vaccines, one of the greatest public health achievements in U. S. history. Prior to that, the record for the fastest vaccine development was four years; Operation Warp Speed did it in nine months. There should be a Nobel or comparable prize somewhere for that.
- He completely transformed the Middle East in the negotiation of the Abraham Accords, which encompassed four Arab-Israeli peace accords and trade agreements, the first such agreements in more than 25 years, and he did it by rejecting the received wisdom of the “peace industry” led by John Kerry that there could be no separate peace without the Palestinians and by confronting Iranian aggression. The big question here is, will Biden throw away this major accomplishment to return to a bad nuclear agreement with Iran?
- Last, but certainly not least, is the rise of “the deplorables”. He built his political base by recognizing millions of Americans who were not being well-served by the globalized economy and the Davos type elites who run it and whose country and culture had been hijacked by the postmodernism, identity politics, and anti-Americanism fed to them by its cultural and educational institutions. Last November, over 74 million of these long-forgotten people voted for his brand of populist nationalism and only a very small fraction of them would ever harbor a thought of storming the nation’s capitol. Trump may now be gone from active political life, but Trumpism is deep and wide and will survive and grow.
Vern Wuensche says
James, I agree with your assessment of Trump’s accomplishments and many would agree with your assessments of his behavior. BUT how do you square the unconstitutional actions of nonlegislative members in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Georgia changing election laws in violation of the U. S. Constitution to obtain a win for Biden. I feel I am in good company with Mark Levin, Tucker Carlson, Newt Gingrich and others who believe THAT violation was the difference in the election. Regarding the Supreme Court’s decision, my Twitter friend Bill McGurn said it best: liberals on the Court always vote ideology; conservatives vote based on process. Which is why the Texas lawsuit failed.
James Windham says
Vern – I make no attempt to square the various state actions, many of which were made with help from Republicans there, but this election was over on December 14, when the Electoral College vote was certified and the Supreme Court made it clear that it wanted no part of any intervention. There is a serious problem here, but the solution is with the states.
Dr. Tom says
Brian K Delaney says
Totally agree with your comments and would probably include a roaring economy pre-Covid. Given his accomplishments anyone with a more amenable approach probably would have won the election by 5 points. He certainly didn’t help the effort at the end! My sense is while there was some nonsense with the mail in voting probably not enough to change the result…
Dr Tom says
Hundreds of sworn affidavits reportedly exist attesting to a variety of vote frauds, some huge, others not.
But investigated? Nope. Denied standings by various courts including SCOTUS to the state of Texas.
I regret to inform you our country is slipping rapidly into communism. Our economy remains largely shut down, and many more of us will be getting payments directly from our federal government even as the Biden closes down business like Keystone. Those workers have kids, mortgages, need to eat.
Reminds me of the old Russian saw, “Our government pretends to pay us, and we pretend to work”.
Danny Billingsley says
Jim, as always I find most of your assessment spot on. I agree the results would probably not be different had all states abetted by their constitutionally mandated process. Never the less, some states glaring disregard of constitutionally required processes exposes a glaring weakness in the electoral process. Our elections must be regarded as trustworthy to a vast majority of citizens. Without that, we can never have a trusted election. Without a trusted election, we can never have a workable government. Rightly or wrongly, a huge minority of voters find this election untrustworthy.
James Windham says
Danny, I don’t disagree with anything you have said here, but the problem must be fixed at the state level, where Republicans joined with Democrats in corrupting the process in many cases, and after the certification of the Electoral College vote on December 14, it was too late–the Supreme Court was not inclined to intervene. There needs to be a concerted effort to fix this problem where it exists in every state before the 2022 elections.
Leslie Loftis says
Excellent summary, and I am particularly with you on the opening paragraph. I was drafting a similar assessment for my newsletter right after the elections, but I wanted a concession, an end, before I hit send. Good thing, because narcissism changed so much.
Jim Windham says
Thanks. It could have been much different and he only has himself to blame.
david redford says
I agree with much of what you have said about the last couple of months. However he started in about July saying that if he got beat it was because the election was rigged. He could not keep saying it and most of his followers believed him even after 60 court cases. He would have ranked low in history but after Jan 6 and the big lie he will probably be called the worst president in history. He has set a new standard for sore losers. I have told friends of mine who beat me or my team in athletic events 60 years ago that I have now realized that the game was rigged.
Dr. Tom says
The Supreme Court rules supremely by refusing to hear a case?
The Texas case was not small potatoes. It should have been heard.
Now SCOTUS will look into the election late this month, as if they can resurrect a corpse.
I did not think much of Trump’s many tweets either, but where was he to turn to rebut falsehoods? To the NY Times or the Austin paper? I looked at his policy decisions, and would call him the best President since Polk.
David Merrill says
A masterful summary, Jim. Trump should be admired for his accomplishments, and condemned for his character and style.